CPSC Bans Toxic Chemicals in Kid’s Toys, Child Care Articles

Hurray for CPSC. Phthui for phthalates.

CPSC commissioners took an important step today to protect children’s health.

Kaushal Karkhanis/Flickr

The agency voted to ban five toxic chemicals in children’s toys and child care products. These chemicals—part of a family of chemicals known as “phthalates” (THAL-ates)—are associated with a host of health problems, according to the CPSC’s expert scientific panel, its staff, and numerous other scientists. Phthalates are commonly used as a plastic softener in children’s toys and child care products, such as teething rings.

Exposure to phthalates can cause lifelong problems. The CPSC reached its decision relying primarily on findings by scientific experts on the harm to male reproductive functions: reduced testosterone synthesis, undescended testes, testicular atrophy, and genital malformation. But the expert panel also found that some phthalates affect critical organs and systems including liver, kidney, immune, and thyroid function. These chemicals are found at high levels in household dust, where they migrate from products and materials in our homes.

The agency’s experts are not alone in their concern. Congress voted 424-1 in the House and 89-3 in the Senate to pass the law that first banned several phthalates and called for an expert scientific panel to study and make recommendations to the CPSC on other phthalates.

CPSC did what the law required. It set up an expert scientific panel, had its own scientists review the materials and reach the same conclusions, and then followed the science to ban dangerous chemicals in many children’s products.

For more about the process that led to today’s decision, see this blog by my colleague, Daniel Rosenberg.

So, yes, I am glad that these chemical manufacturers won’t be able to use these toxic chemicals in a bunch of kids' products.

The news hits close to home: I have an 8-year old.

Just before she was born, I worked on a case to prevent manufacturers from selling children’s toys and child care articles with phthalates after the law’s effective date. It was satisfying to know that our work at NRDC was helping make my daughter’s world a touch safer. That followed work by my colleagues to help ensure that phthalates were addressed by the law. And NRDC has continued the work on phthalates since then—submitting comments during agency proceedings, participating in briefings and hearings, rebutting industry arguments, and fighting industry delays. We continue to address phthalate exposures both in this context and others, such as in the marketplace.

Today’s decision takes the protections that we helped enforce back in 2009 further. This vote means that children will be exposed to fewer dangerous chemicals in the products they come into contact with every day. And that is a good thing.

This blog provides general information, not legal advice. If you need legal help, please consult a lawyer in your state.

About the Authors

Avinash Kar

Senior Attorney, Health & Environment program

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